I have been extremely lucky and travelled a fair bit in 2013. So here are my random awards – THE WILLIES – for the year
BEST LONG HAUL AIRLINE: BRITISH AIRWAYS
No airline gets everything right all the time, but I think BA gets it right more often than most, and I don’t agree with those who think it’s fashionable to bash it just because it’s a national symbol. After a dip a few years ago – my goodness some of those crew could be right battle axes – I have had some great flights this year with very friendly staff. And on their re-vamped fleet (A380s, 787s and some 777s – sadly only those) the inflight entertainment is pretty much there with the best in the industry.
Best short haul airline: easyJet
Again, for me this comes down to crew. I have had several easyJet flights this year where the crew seem to have remembered that flying can be fun and went above and beyond in customer service.
Surprise hit – long haul: Bermuda
If I had a penny for every time someone said “oh you won’t like it, it’s boring” before I set off for Bermuda, well I’d have around 7 pence by now. But guess what? I loved it. Laid back, great people, awesome beaches. The only major negative points are on cost (not cheap!) and not be able to rent a hire car, although I do understand that the island would be one great big car park if that was allowed.
Surprise hit – short haul: Italian Dolomites
I was fortunate enough to travel to this part of Italy twice this year – once for skiing and once in summer. It is an incredibly stunning region and I think the Dolomites knock the Alps into a cocked hat. Add in the mix of mouth-watering Italian/Austrian cooking and it is somewhere I would highly recommend whether for skiing, hiking or just eating!
Surprise hit – mid haul: Marrakech
I went to Marrakech in the 1980s and just remember the hassle so I was somewhat hesitant when I went back in November. I’d heard things were less ‘aggressive’ now and it was true. Maybe it was the 27 degrees while Britain was shivering in Autumn, or evening cocktails on the roof of Riad El Fenn, wandering around the souk or looking in the more modern shops of Gueliz, but this time round it was an altogether much, much more positive experience.
Pool of the Year: Espace Henri Chenot, Merano, Italy
I know I have an incredibly tough job (cough cough, splutter, choke) but honestly, sometimes, you can only get free wifi around the pool. Well, that’s what I tell the other half.
Breakfast of the year: Caravan, Kings Cross
I do like my breakfasts and for me, Caravan, behind Kings Cross is consistently good and my regular go-to. I hope to discover plenty of new breakfast/brunch places in London next year.
Gratuitous pic of the year for dreaming of travel on a rainy, winter day in London: Ipanema beach, Rio de Janeiro
This was Ipanema on a Sunday afternoon last February. But are they happy? (!)
Thank you to everyone who has made my travels possible in 2013, not least my long-suffering other half who puts up with 4 weeks’ holiday-days a year while I trot off all over the place, and never once complains.
The main thing I had heard about Bermuda before I went earlier this year was that it’s dull. Just goes to show you should always make up your own mind because I loved it. And to be honest, I can’t quite put my finger on why. (It certainly wasn’t for the prices. Ouch!) I was there for a few weeks but you can pretty much “do” the whole island in a day (it’s only about 21 miles by 4 miles), however the Bermudians were utterly charming, the beaches fantastic, and all in in all it just has a seductive air that I totally fell in love with. There are places that I leave and say “nice but I won’t be back” and then there are spots that, as I’m taxiing down the runway, I’ll think “yes, not sure when, but I will return here” – and Bermuda is very definitely in the latter category.
I think one of the best ways to enjoy Bermuda would be to combine the island with New York for a detox-retox break. (It’s only an hour and a half’s flight from the Big Apple, so with BA/American Airlines you could do a triangular London-New York-Bermuda-London route or vv). Don’t forget it’s NOT the Caribbean, so it’s not the best bet for winter sun. (I was there till early November, and after October 31st the tourism industry seemed to hang a big “closed till March” sign over the whole place). If you don’t want a big ritzy hotel, I would definitely recommend the Rosedon Hotel in Hamilton. Small and very friendly.